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Cool Ventures March 2015 Newsletter
In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Selling to the Government
British Business Bank
Rural Development Programme
Employment status Update
NI Changes for under 21 year olds
Bristol Post Business Awards
Auto enrollment (again!)
Zero Hour Contracts
Bristol named as top Tech City
Universal Credit for the Self employed
Business Growth Loans
£2000 Employment Allowance
Class 2 NI changes
RTI Late Filing Penalties
HMRC Employer information
HMRC Webinars


The government is making it easier for small and medium sized businesses to win public sector contracts

The public sector spends £187 billion each year on goods and services, and the Government wants to work with more small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).
The Government knows SMEs offer value for money and services just as good as big companies, so they want to make sure you can successfully compete for their business.
That’s why they’ve changed the way government buys goods and services, to make the process easier for everyone.  So what’s changed?
  • All public sector contracts will be advertised in one place - 'Contracts Finder', this includes pipelines, not just existing contracts
  • Breaking down big contracts into smaller ones, making it easier for SMEs to bid for them
  • Removing complicated questionnaires and forms
  • You will get paid within 30 days - through the entire supply chain.

Find out more at: GOV.UK - A guide to doing business with government    

British Business Bank to support growth of UK companies

The Prime Minister has announced that the British Business Bank will pilot a new programme, Help to Grow, to allow fast-growing companies realise their potential. The British Business Bank will start a £100m pilot scheme to develop the concept.

Smaller businesses are vital to the UK economy, and are major drivers of employment and innovation for the country. Ensuring that they have adequate access to the right type of finance at the right time is essential to ensure that they achieve their growth potential. The British Business Bank’s Small Business Finance Markets report[1], published in December 2014, shows that increased numbers of smaller businesses are expected to seek finance for growth in the coming years, as nearly half (46%) of small businesses plan to grow their turnover in the next 12 months, with 17% of these expecting to fully or part fund this expansion with commercial finance.

Forthcoming research by the British Business Bank shows that the growth loan market for small businesses is underdeveloped in the UK, with a number of structural market failures affecting both the supply and the demand side restricting this market from becoming established. Market data shows that the private sector providers (active in this growth finance space) currently target larger corporates with deal sizes in excess of £10-20m. There has been limited entry by private sector debt funds specifically targeting smaller businesses with deal sizes of less than £10m, especially for deals sizes £2-5m and below.

British Business Bank research finds that there are approximately 16,000 firms with high growth and annual turnover in the range £1m to £25m per year which might be suitable for growth finance, and expects that around 500 of these firms annually could benefit from additional finance availability. These firms will typically require finance in the range £0.5m to £2m, meaning up to £1bn annual demand overall, subject to testing of the market through this pilot.

England's Rural Development Programme approved

The European Commission has approved England's Rural Development Programme 2014/20. The programme outlines how more than £3 billion of funding is to be spent over the next five years. Almost one third of the funding will be available under the Countryside Stewardship scheme, which is intended to encourage biodiversity and will be open for applications in July 2015. Schemes to encourage farming and forestry productivity will also be established and support will be provided via the LEADER network, which will focus on the development of tourism, broadband infrastructure and renewable energy.
Read more about the Programme at:

Employment status report published

Proposals to simplify the outdated tax system and streamline definitions of employment and self-employment have been put forward by the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) in its report on employment status. While there is currently no statutory definition of self-employment, which is measured differently in relation to tax, pension auto-enrolment and employment law, employers can face considerable tax bills if they determine an individual's employment status incorrectly. Recommendations in the report include provision of better employment status guidance, including an HMRC helpline and advice about the steps to take when engaging self-employed individuals. The OTS has also invited comments on its longer-term proposals, which include a feasibility study into a statutory employment test and the aligning of tax, NIC rates and benefits for employed and self-employed people.
Read more about the report at:


No NI for under 21 year old employees

If you employ anyone under 21 years old you will no longer have to pay Class 1 secondary National Insurance contributions on earnings up to the new Upper Secondary Threshold (UST) for those employees.  This comes into effect from 6 April 2015 so be prepared to change the NI Category letters of those employees to ensure you’re paying the correct amount of NI contributions.
The Abolition of employer National insurance contributions for under 21's section of GOV.UK has been updated and now includes more detailed guidance for employers, plus detail on the new category letters and rates.

Launch of 2015 Bristol Post Business Awards

The Bristol Post Business Awards are designed to reward excellence amongst the Bristol business community.
Winners of each category will receive press coverage as well as the prestige associated with winning an Award.
The Awards are open to businesses in the Bristol Post circulation area, although organisations in the public or voluntary sectors may be eligible for certain Awards.
Awards Categories for 2015 are as follows:
  • Business of the Year
  • Innovator of the Year
  • Export Award
  • Marketing Campaign of the Year
  • Best Creative or Technological Business Award
  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Retailer of the Year Award
  • Family Business of the Year Award
  • Large Business of the Year
  • Small Business of the Year
  • Start Up Business of the Year Award
  • Environmental Business Award
  • Contribution to the Community Award
  • Customer Service Award
  • Leisure and Tourism Business of the Year Award
The 2015 deadline is 17 April 2015.
The winners will be announced at an event at the Passenger Shed on 25 June 2015.
See the website for more details.

Small employers not prepared for auto-enrolment

Around 45,000 small and micro companies will pass their staging dates between April and December 2015, while in 2016 and 2017 more than half a million will stage each year.

However, the study by the state-backed pension provider found that 83% of small and micro employers still do not have a workplace scheme set up.

Less than one-fifth (18%) say they understand what the reforms will mean for their business in practical terms, despite 91% of small employers and 85% of micro employers claiming that they're aware of the reforms.

The businesses surveyed were asked whether they are planning to seek advice ahead of their staging dates:

  • 74% said they will get support from an intermediary
  • of those, 59% said they will go to an accountant for advice
  • 70% of employers with 4 members of staff or less will talk to an accountant.

Tim Jones, chief executive of the NEST, said:

"Until now, auto-enrolment has just not added up for accountants - the duties so far have only fallen on large employers that typically may not have turned to accountants for pension advice.

Make sure you are aware of your staging date and make sure you take action in plenty of time.  If you are unsure how to proceed, contact us and we can help you find the right partner.

BIS confirms forthcoming ban of zero-hours exclusivity clauses

Exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts (ZHCs) will be banned under the Small Business Bill, the Department for Business (BIS) has confirmed in a response to a consultation on this issue. However, the ban will not apply to contracts that guarantee a weekly income above a certain threshold or a basic pay rate of £20 or more per hour. Secondary legislation will be introduced to deal with employers who breach the ban and to provide for employee compensation. 

The consultation response is available in full at:

Major new report ranks Bristol as UK’s top tech city outside London

The Bristol & Bath area has been named as the UK’s most important centre for the fast-growing digital industry outside of London.

A major new report – called Powering a Digital Economy 2015 – says the area is home to a globally-significant cluster of innovative businesses and a hotbed for future technologies.

Businesses are backed by a network of support organisations such as Bristol & Bath Science Park, and leading business incubator SETsquared, based at Bristol’s Engine Shed. It also boasts a strong network of entrepreneurs while there are fewer barriers to growth than other areas named in the report.

The report highlights the area’s strengths in digital and creative industries, which is says is due to its rich heritage in aerospace, hi-tech and natural history film-making.

Guide to Universal Credit and the self-employed

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has published a quick guide to claiming Universal Credit as a self-employed person. Universal Credit replaces Housing Benefit, Tax Credits and other benefits for people on low incomes and is being introduced in stages across the UK. Anyone making a claim for Universal Credit who is already self-employed must attend a Gateway Interview to assess whether or not they are in 'gainful' self-employment. This means that their trade or occupation is their main form of employment, is well-organised, and carried out regularly with a view to making a profit. Universal Credit payments are calculated on the basis of an assumed minimum level of earnings (the minimum income floor), unless the self-employed person has been trading for under 12 months, in which case payments will be calculated on the person's earnings and treated as if they were from PAYE employment.
Read more about Universal Credit at:


Business Growth Loans

Business growth funding is available for South West micro, small and medium sized businesses with growth potential supported with Regional Growth Fund and European Regional Development Fund finance. If you are a growing business but find yourself unable to secure all the funding you need, this loan could be for you.

Regional Growth Fund

Main terms:
Loan amount £10,000 to £100,000
Maximum 3 year term
Interest charged 10% fixed
Arrangement fee of 2% of loan amount payable on loan draw down

South West Loans Fund

Main terms:
Maximum amount £50,000
Maximum 5 year term
Commercial rates of interest charged in line with EU guidelines (normally between 6% and 10% fixed)
Arrangement fee of 1% of loan amount (min. £75) payable on draw down
Monitoring fee of 1% of original loan (min. £75) payable per year

Loans subject to personal guarantees, further security may be requested according to commercial risk.

If you are interested in borrowing up to £50,000 contact us for more information.

Could you benefit from claiming Employment Allowance? 

Are you aware of the opportunity to claim Employment Allowance.
Since April 2014, businesses and charities have been entitled to claim an Employment Allowance of up to £2,000 to help reduce the employer National Insurance contributions (NICs) bill.
To find out if you qualify and how much you could save, use this simple calculator 

HMRC commitment to making tax easier, quicker and simpler for businesses

A new app launched by HMRC provides easier access to a wide range of digital help and support for businesses.
What’s included in the App? -  Access to:
  - live webinars and recorded videos 
  - information and services on taxes
  - e-learning for employers and self employed
  - signing up to our email alerts 
  - HMRC Business Help Twitter account
  - Commercially developed Record Keeping apps - including the tax calculator
  - HMRC forms 

To download the app go to


Class 2 National Insurance Contributions – payment change

The payment of Self-employed National Insurance Contributions is changing. HMRC will be collecting Class 2 NICs via Self-Assessment for most self-employed people from April 2015. See detail.

HMRC announces penalties for RTI filing delays

Employers who miss filing their RTI (Real Time Information) deadlines by no more than three days will not be subject to late-filing penalties, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has announced. Firms employing 49 or fewer staff will be subject to penalties from 6th March 2015, while firms with 50 or more employees have already been subject to penalties since October 2014. HMRC is also seeking views on whether it should differentiate between employers who miss deadlines 'deliberately' and 'persistently' and those who make occasional, genuine errors. Responses must be submitted by 11th May 2015.

Read more about the penalties at:

HMRC’s discussion document is available at:



Employer information

HMRC have published important information for employers on, which includes:


Cool Ventures girl with lightbulb


An Introduction to Business
6pm, Emersons Green

One to one business advice for trading businesses

Starting in Business Workshop
6pm, Bath

Starting in Business Workshop
6pm, Keynsham

One to One Startup advice

One to One business advice for trading businesses
Midsomer Norton

One to One Startup Advice
Midsomer Norton


HMRC webinars
The webinars last about an hour, they are live and interactive so questions can be asked by participants.

Whether you want to find out about PAYE, Self Employment, VAT, Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) for Contractors and Subcontractors, Property Income, Record Keeping and other topics - these webinars will offer help and guidance.

Join HMRC by clicking on the link HMRC April Webinars to choose from the range available:  

Just in case you haven’t taken part in live webinars before – this is what you need to do to join: 

1.    Sign up by providing a name and email address – HMRC will then send a link to attend.

2.    Ask questions in the text box on the screen – HMRC will explain how during the webinar. 
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